“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Secondhand Wisdom

Time and again, I have written about the simple pleasure in hunting - for books. In the last few years, most of my pickings have been second-hand/used books. It suits me because, the longer the hunt, greater is the pleasure - both in the hunting and in the sudden discovery of a gem among the trash.

One of the blessings of my posting at Alleppey is that I have to go to Eranakulam on official business at least a couple of times in a month. As soon as the work is over, I grab a snack and then dive into Kerala Books, the secondhand bookseller ( at Warriam Road and Chittoor Road) and spend the next couple of hours happily. Oh, you may not recognise me, if you know me only as the Banker; I undergo a metamorphosis, I become a different person just as I do when I touch down in the Himalayas.

Every visit to the shops end up in spending an average of 600-700 bucks, nearly the extra diem allowance I get officially. So I splurge with no qualms!

I generally am not keen on pep books, the motivational, the how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people, the chicken soups and the like. I am yet to learn of anyone who could turn a new leaf by reading these so-called self-help books. As far as I know, it made Dale Carnegie a billionaire - and didn't he kill himself? But then, among the heaps of unbelievable trashy works of fiction, I chance upon this book - ' Touchstones Daily Meditations for Men'. It is a collection of 365 quotations - I was about to put it back, but something caught my eye - Sit loosely in the saddle of life - R L Stevenson. Every quote is followed by an explanatory, motivating text.

In my younger days at Mavelikkara, there were professional readers of the Ramayana. If there is an ailing member in the house, usually old and near death, we would hire one of these readers. After the puja and other ceremonies, he would reverently open the Ramayana at a random page and read from there. It is usually believed that the verse in the opened page will have some significance as to the dying person or the family.

The 'Daily Meditations' - I found it different from the usual books of quotations. The quotations have been chosen with care. The book, I gathered, is meant for those who are withdrawing from drug/alcohol addiction.

Strangely, I am stirred whenever I open this book at a random page and read the quote:
Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life - Herbert Otto. Hmm, I think. Herbert could be talking about me.

We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin. - Andre Berthiaume

I have never for one instant seen clearly within myself. How then would you have me judge the deed of others? - Maurice Materlink.

In my friend, I find a second self. - Isabel Norton.

Quite thought provoking, quite reflective. Yet, these are opinions of individuals like ourselves; it is the essence of their life experiences. They could be right - or wrong. Yet we all say things with a certain finality, with a firmness that what we say is correct and inviolable. Whether it is a view of life or of another person, we believe that our perspective or judgement to be absolute. We assume we know life. We assume we know the other person. Yet do we realize that life as we see it is tainted by our vision? In whatever we see, hear, smell, touch or say, there is always the I behind it. To look at a mountain and say that I love it requires the prerequisite of love for mountains inside us. One has to have an ear for music to love it. One has to have a liking for the fragrance of a rose and a dislike for that of a rotting corpse, to like or dislike it. One has to have the love for children to love the softness of their cheeks.

But then - we can outgrow our senses. Only then we can look at and understand life, sans bias, sans judgement. In that state of mind we can be aware of and love everything, without our personal bias. 

Like the last line in Richard Bach's 'Illusions', Everthing in this book maybe wrong. It may be right too.
*********** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 02.12.2012


  1. When I see you have a new post, I look forward to it! And this has not disappointed. I too love to ride on 2 wheels and browse among books.

    And thank you for the quotes, which I shall certainly steal, er, Borrow!

    Warm Aloha
    from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral

    ~ > < } } ( ° >

    > < 3 3 3 ( ' >

  2. @Claudia: You are welcome! :-)

    Do check out the book in the net. It is not only the quotes but the explanations that follow makes the book worthwhile. I see that such series are available for women, teenagers etc.

  3. Balan, ditto I dont believe in self-help, motivational, self improvement books.

    I condemn them strongly; how can someone who doesnt even know you help you better your life? At least I have never seen anyone get better reading such books. Fictions and biographies, history, geographies and travel books all entice me.

    Your post reminds me of an incident. I will save that for my next post :)

  4. @Insignia: Whoa, that's really strong, coming from you! :-) What makes me laugh is the 'How to earn millions' How to be a billionaire' etc. What the f are they doing writing crap if they know how to make millions in the first place? :-)

    But quotations are a bit different. Really good quotes gives you an insight - like a flash...

  5. @Insignia: Spams, B, spams with spasms!:-)

  6. I love writing down quotes I like in my diary. And how I want to be in that book store right now.

  7. Sir
    I had also bought some books from Chittoor road. Some books have some notes also. Some of them had presented to somebody. Everytime I take these books I think about all these things. I like to read all of your posts, very interesting and informative

  8. Quotes collecting is (was) one of my fondest thing to do!

  9. @Kavita: :-) Yeah, I am like a kid in a sweetshop when I go there!

    @Hepziba: Good quotes are like windows opening to a beautiful world!

    @Aswathi: Yes, I know. I too look at those signaturs and notes and wonder about those people who had touched the book...


Leave a word, please!